Appendix 1: Guide to the Formation of an Effective Land Trust

This document is intended to help guide preliminary discussions around the key question: Is starting a land trust right for you?  It should also be used as a checklist to guide the formation of an effective land trust.  Think deeply about how a land trust would impact the community, how the community could impact a land trust, and undoubtedly, additional community-specific questions will materialize.

Follow the steps and brainstorm the questions presented below with the group of founding members. If possible, pose the questions to various community groups or have the founding members consider how other groups might answer the questions. Remember that there are no right answers. The questions posed here are intended to help identify if and where a land trust could focus its efforts and address community concerns. Also, remember that sharing initial uncertainties too widely in public forums at this point may create the perception that the organization lacks direction or action, a barrier that will be difficult to overcome once the land trust is created and ready for action. By all means, consult other community members, but do so among a trusted group that understands the context of your questions.

The nine steps listed here are detailed in the checklist to follow:

1. Gain insight from someone from a successful land trust
2. Define the critical ecological and cultural values of your community
3. Define threats to those values
4. Assess the need for a new land trust, other land conservation options and/or partnerships
5. Determine the likelihood of success
6. Define your geographic focus
7. Specify the theme(s) of your activity
8. Focus efforts as much as possible
9. Choose categories of land for priority protection where threats are greatest

Checklist to Guide the Formation of an Effective Land Trust

  • VHave someone from an established and successful land trust meet with your key people to explain how a land trust works, answer questions and build enthusiasm. Make sure you have an idea of the ‘positives’ as well as the long laundry list of administrative necessities.
  • VDefine the distinctive features of your community:
  • VIn what traditional Indigenous territory(ies) is your community and land trust located?
  • VWhat Indigenous communities, organizations and leadership are active in this territory? Consider Indigenous Bands, reserves, unrecognized and off-reserve communities, Métis, and formal, informal and traditional leadership and organizations.
  • VWhat treaties, protocols and relationships apply?
  • VAre there sites and features within your community that are culturally significant such as sacred sites, natural features that are featured in stories, archaeological sites (petroglyphs, middens, clam gardens, culturally modified trees, stone fishing weirs, historic camp sites and portage routes etc.), and historical and current harvesting/hunting areas?
  • VWhat plant and animal species within your community are important to your community’s culture, well-being, and way of life?
  • VIs your community an attractive place to live or visit?
  • VIf you had visitors from another country, where would you take them within your community?
  • VWould that choice change with the seasons?
  • VAre there distinctive sounds, sights, tastes or smells that you associate with your community?
  • VWhat features of the countryside contribute to the quality of life in the towns?
  • VWhat features are important to various parts of your community – Indigenous, waters, farm, conservation, cultural, tourism and business?
  • VWhat features are important to other local groups?
  • VDefine threats to those distinctive features:
  • VAre people and organizations well connected to the lands and waters?
  • VDo Indigenous and other peoples have sufficient access to lands and waters for their needs? If not, what people and needs could benefit from a land trust?
  • VAre culturally sacred sites and historically important sites under threat from economic development, resource extraction, or vandalism?
  • VAre important plants and animals under threat or losing habitat?
  • VAre woodlots being cleared?
  • VAre wetlands being filled or drained?
  • VAre strip-developments from urban areas encroaching on natural lands?
  • VAre residential estates popping up?
  • VAre shorelines being subdivided and developed into cottage lots?
  • VWhat other land use changes are occurring in the community?
  • VAssess the need for a new land trust:
  • VWill land holding and care activities achieve conservation of your community's distinctive values? Are other approaches needed?
  • VWill outreach and education help conserve your community's distinctive values?
  • VAre there high-value lands still unprotected or unavailable?
  • VAre there existing organizations (local, regional or provincial/territorial) that can conserve or use these high-value lands? Will they use all the approaches needed?
  • VFor Indigenous-focused purposes, are Bands, other corporations or organizations a potential alternative and can they qualify for land holding and tax incentive programs? Potential alternatives/options could include Addition to Reserve process or a land claim.
  • VAre the high-value lands categorized as crownland (provincial/territorial or federal) or private land or both? Are there are any marine or coastal waters within the high value area? For terrestrial land or waters under crown jurisdiction, consider exploring the potential for discussions about co-management and co-governance with the provincial/territorial or federal government.
  • VExplore other land conservation options/organizations and potential for partnerships with existing organizations:
  • VWhat are your relations with local Indigenous communities, what are Indigenous needs and priorities, and what partnerships might be explored?
  • VFor ILTs, does your community share its traditional territory with the traditional territory of other Indigenous nations (First Nation, Inuit, Metis)? What are your relationships with these neighbouring Indigenous nations? Is there potential for partnerships to be explored?
  • VAre there existing organizations or groups who might be willing to expand their operations to hold and care for priority and high-value lands?
  • VDetermine the likelihood of success:
  • VWill you have local Indigenous communities and leaders involved or on side with your plans?
  • VAre there enough people who care about these significant lands to populate the Board, join as members, and serve as volunteers and donors?
  • VDo those interested have the required skills and enthusiasm to achieve success for the organization?
  • VDoes anyone within the group of interested people possess the necessary leadership skills to build and maintain momentum?
  • VAre there potential donors/supporters within the community?
  • VIs there potential to build financial capacity to sustain the land trust?
  • VWhat is the likelihood of receiving grants from foundations and government funds?
  • VWill the political bodies in the community see a land trust as a help or a problem?
  • VWhat are the various rightsholder and stakeholder groups in your community?
  • VAre those various groups likely to view a land trust in a positive or negative way?
  • VHave there been any recent political events that have banded people together to approve of/oppose a land trust or similar group and its mission?
  • VAre there opportunities for local, regional, provincial/territorial, national, or even international partnerships?
  • VHas there been negative publicity with charities currently or previously operating in your community that could reflect poorly on a new charity?
  • VDefine your geographic focus:
  • VWhat are local Indigenous communities' traditional and treaty territories?
  • VWith what geographies do people in your community identify?
  • VWhat geographic boundaries can be most practically described and easily identified to define your working area?
  • VAre there existing land trusts or land conservation organizations working in adjacent communities that could help define your boundaries?
  • VSpecify the theme of your activity:
  • VConsider, once more, the distinctive values of your community.
  • VChoose whether to focus broadly on preserving the character of your community based on local need, or whether to define the scope more narrowly (e.g., Indigenous interests, natural, cultural, recreational and/or farmlands, etc.)
  • VWhat distinctive values would the various rightsholder and stakeholder groups be most likely to support protecting?
  • VChoose categories of land for priority action where current threats or opportunities are greatest.
  • VWhat are the types of lands that are a priority for various parts of your community: ecological, cultural, others?
  • VAre priority lands nearby to other community or conserved lands, crown lands, or Band Reserve lands?
  • VDo certain organizations take a particular interest in or are active there that might take the lead, and/or work with you?
  • VWhat conservation measures are most appropriate, effective and likely to be used there? Are land holding, land care, and education among these?
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